Primus Pathology Laboratory

Total Calcium Test

Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Dr. Neeraj Gujar

Total Calcium Test Overview

The total calcium blood test is used to determine the amount of calcium in your blood. Your bones store most of your calcium, one of the most essential minerals in your body. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also necessary for proper nerve, heart, and muscle function. Calcium is essential for many body functions but it must be in a safe range.

The total calcium blood test is used to determine the amount of calcium in your blood.

The ionized Calcium Blood Test is a second test that measures calcium levels in the blood. The term “free calcium” is calcium that’s unbound to proteins and not mixed with an anion. A calcium blood test could indicate a variety of medical conditions such as bone disorders, thyroid conditions, and parathyroid disorders.

Calcium is an important mineral in your body. Your blood contains about 1% of your calcium. The rest of the calcium is stored in bones and teeth. Your nerves, muscles, heart, and brain will function properly if there is enough calcium in your blood. It helps your blood vessels move blood around your body and releases hormones that affect many body functions.

Why Calcium Test Is Done?

A total calcium blood test will be ordered by your doctor as part of a routine metabolic panel. Your doctor might order a blood test to determine if you have high or low calcium levels. If you are suspected of having kidney disease, parathyroid illness, cancer, or malnutrition, your doctor may order a calcium blood sample. It can also be used to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions, such as those that affect your bones, kidneys, or digestive system.

Two types of calcium blood tests can be used to measure different forms of blood calcium.

  • Total Calcium Test which measures all calcium in your blood. There are two types of blood calcium, which are usually present in approximately equal amounts. “Bound calcium”, which is attached to proteins in your body. “Free calcium or ionized calcium” does not include proteins. This type of blood calcium is active in many body functions. Your body controls the amount of bound and ionized Calcium in your body. A total calcium test can give you a good idea of how much is ionized. The most commonly used test for blood calcium is the total calcium test. It is often part of a simple metabolic panel (BMP) and a comprehensive metabolism panel (CMP), which are both routine screening tests.

An “ionized calcium test only measures the “free calcium”, which isn’t bound to proteins. It is more difficult to perform an ionized test, so it is usually ordered if your results from a total calcium test are not normal. This test may be ordered if your body is unable to balance the amount of ionized or bound calcium in your blood.

Also Read: Everything About a Blood Test!

When To Get Tested?

As part of your regular check-up, your health care provider might have ordered a comprehensive or basic metabolic panel. This includes a calcium blood test. This test can also be used to monitor or diagnose conditions that could affect your blood calcium, or if you experience symptoms of abnormal calcium levels.

High calcium levels can cause:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain (belly)
  • Appetite loss
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Confusion

Low calcium levels can cause:

  • Dry skin, coarse hair, and nails that break easily (after a long time of low levels).
  • Muscle cramps or stiffness
  • Tingling in the lips and tongue, fingers, feet, and fingers
  • Arrhythmia (a problem affecting the rhythm or rate of your heartbeat).

People with low or high calcium levels often don’t experience symptoms. So, the test is requested if you have a condition that could affect your calcium levels such as:

  • Kidney disease
  • Parathyroid or thyroid disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Calcium absorption problems
  • Some types of cancer

calcium sources

The image represents tablets which are calcium supplements that are taken when a person is deficient in Calcium

How To Get Tested?

Before the test, Your doctor might ask you to fast or discontinue taking certain supplements or medications. These medications could include:

  • Lithium
  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Antacids containing calcium
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Calcium supplements

Make sure you inform your doctor about all medications and supplements you take so they can provide you with the appropriate guidance before you go for your test. Consuming large amounts of food or drinks that are high in calcium can also increase your calcium levels and impact test results.

Also Read:  Phosphorus Test

During the Test

Your healthcare provider will take a sample of your blood from your arm to perform the test. A needle will be inserted into a vein on your arm. The tube will then be filled with a small amount of blood. The blood draw should not take more than five minutes. The needle may cause a slight pinch in your arm.

After The Test

A blood test is not a risky procedure. Although you may feel a little bit of pain or bruise around the site where the needle was inserted, most symptoms disappear quickly.

Test Results

A normal reference range for blood total calcium testing in adults is between 8.6 to 10.2 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL). This range may vary from one lab to the next.

Refer to the reference ranges included with your test report to interpret your test results.

Also Read: Hemoglobin Test

Interpreting Results

High test results are those that exceed the reference range. Hypercalcemia is a condition in which the blood calcium level exceeds normal.

High calcium levels can cause:

  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Low appetite
  • Abdominal pains
  • Urinating more often
  • Being constipated
  • Excessive thirst
  • Bone pain

Hypercalcemia can be caused by:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism is an overactive set of parathyroid glands or certain types of cancer. These together account for 80-90 percent of hypercalcemic patients.
  • Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland.
  • Renal or adrenal cell failure
  • Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that causes growth called granulomas throughout your body.
  • Being immobilized or bedridden for a long time
  • Diuretics such as lithium or thiazide diuretics include medications like lithium
  • Supplementation with too much calcium, vitamin e, or other nutrients is a problem.

Your doctor will try to diagnose and treat hypercalcemia.

What does a low-level mean?

If your test results fall below the reference range, they are considered low. A low level of blood calcium is known as hypocalcemia.

Hypocalcemia is a condition in which too much calcium is lost through the urine or not enough calcium is absorbed from your bones.

Low calcium levels can cause:

  • Cramps in your stomach or muscles
  • Feel a tingling sensation in the palms
  • An irregular heartbeat

Hypocalcemia can be caused by:

  • Hypoparathyroidism (an underactive parathyroid gland)
  • Kidney failure
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation in the pancreas).
  • Problems with calcium absorption
  • Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants and corticosteroids (an antibiotic), may be prescribed, including rifampin (an antibiotic).
  • Vitamin D or calcium deficiency in your diet
  • Low levels of albumin within the blood. This could be due to malnutrition, liver disease, or other reasons. The total calcium level might not reflect true hypocalcemia.

Hypocalcemia may be treated by your doctor with calcium and vitamin D supplements. They will also help to determine if there is an underlying condition or disease that may be causing hypocalcemia.

Final Takeaway

The total calcium blood test measures how much calcium is in your blood.

This test will be ordered by your doctor as part of a routine metabolic panel. If you have symptoms of low calcium or high calcium, make sure to consult your doctor.

Many cases of high or low results can be easily treated. Sometimes, the underlying condition may require a more complicated treatment plan. Talk to your doctor to discuss your options. They will work with you to treat any condition or disease that is affecting your calcium levels.


What should I do if my calcium levels are high?

If the calcium levels are high in the test result it is suggested that you visit a doctor. So that you understand the underlying reasons for hypercalcemia. In addition to that, you must keep yourself hydrated, exercise, avoid diuretics drugs, or lithium, and also avoid high calcium food like milk and other milk products.

What happens when calcium levels are too low?

Hypocalcemia or low levels of calcium can cause symptoms like muscle weakness, fatigue, muscle spasm, numbness, and tingling sensations and may lead to osteoporosis.

What are the normal calcium levels in blood?

The normal range of calcium level in blood is 2.1mmol/liter – 2.6 mmol/liter

by Dr. Neeraj Gujar

Dr. Neeraj Gujar has done his M.D. in Pathology from Government Medical College. He has worked at various organisations such as Breach Candy Hospital and Tata Memorial Hospital along with many other private organisations. During his working career, he realised the pressing need for exceptional quality diagnostic services. A diagnostic centre that can consistently give accurate results verified by a consultant doctor (M.D. Pathologist) on which your doctor can depend. This has been the founding principle of Primus Pathology and Diagnostics.

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